A few hours earlier, Ukraine had announced that it was regaining ground in the Lugansk region (east), after its successes in those of Kherson (south) and Kharkiv (northeast).
« We assume that the situation will stabilize and that we can develop these areas peacefully“, estimated Mr. Putin, who decreed on September 21 the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists to try to reverse the trend.
He signed a decree for Russia to formally appropriate the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhya. For his part, the head of the IAEA Rafael Grossi announced his departure for kyiv to discuss the « need for a protection zone around the plant more urgent than ever« .
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Even as it retreats on the ground, Russia has proclaimed the annexation of four regions of Ukraine (Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia) which it partially controls after « referendums » denounced by kyiv and its Western allies.
A sign of disarray in Russia, the military’s setbacks led a senior parliamentary official to call on it to « stop lyingon his defeats.
« Our people are not stupid. And he sees that we don’t want to tell him even part of the truth. This can lead to loss of credibility« said Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Defense Committee of the Duma, the lower house of parliament, and a former military commander.
kyiv’s troops continue their counter-offensive, claiming new gains in the East and South.
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, so far under almost total control of Moscow, proclaimed a breakthrough.
« Now it’s official. The de-occupation of the Luhansk region has begun. Several localities have already been liberated“said Sergiï Gaïdaï in a video posted on Telegram, without further details.
The day before, Ukraine had already claimed advances in the north of the southern region of Kherson, while almost all of the Kharkiv region (northeast) now appears to be under Ukrainian control, paving the way towards that of Lugansk , bastion of separatists installed by Moscow since 2014.
The Russian army, for its part, assured on Wednesday that it had carried out, in the past 24 hours, « massive strikes« near Lyman (Donetsk region), a town recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces, and inflicting heavy losses on them.
In the Kherson region, troops from Moscow « hold their positions by repelling attacks from numerically superior enemy forces“, she added.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured that the lost territories « will be resumed« .
Mr. Putin had sworn to him to defend the annexed areas, even if it meant using nuclear weapons, a threat that did not stop either the Ukrainian counter-offensive or Western arms deliveries.
The Russian army had half-acknowledged retreats on Tuesday, publishing maps showing that Moscow had ceded a whole part of the northern Kherson region and that its presence in that of Kharkiv was now minimal.
– Not good news –
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed progress « powerfulon Tuesday, claiming that « dozens of localities have been liberated this week alone » in the four regions which Moscow claims to be annexed.
In the east, the retreat from Kharkiv enabled the Ukrainian forces to take the fight further east towards the town of Svatové.
– Go further –
Near Lyman, a strategic railway junction taken over in the Donetsk region (east) last weekend, a Ukrainian paratrooper seen by AFP on Tuesday admitted that he and his comrades were both « exhausted« and determined.
Oleksandre, 31, explained that the fights had been « very hard« , but they needed to »go forward« .
In Lyman, where AFP journalists went on Wednesday, Tatiana Slavouta, a 62-year-old resident, says she doesn’t know « whether the situation is better or worse« since the Ukrainian reconquest.
« All the shops are closed, we have no money, we have no light. Nothing« , she explains, but « at least now there is silence, no bombings« .
On the diplomatic front, US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday a new US shipment of military equipment, worth $625 million.
For their part, the States of the European Union have agreed on a new series of sanctions against Russian entities and personalities.
Russia has claimed to participate in the investigation into the leaks of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, Sweden, in charge of the investigations, having blocked access to the area of this alleged sabotage located in the Baltic Sea.
Moscow implied that the United States could sabotage these key pipes for the energy supply of Europe, when the Westerners suspect Russia.
On a sporting level, Spain and Portugal have announced that they have included Ukraine in their joint candidacy for the organization of the 2030 World Cup, the Portuguese federation welcoming the « tenacity and resilience demonstrated by the Ukrainian people« .
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